When looking at ways to improve productivity and performance, we focus on things like time management skills, organizational skills, and more training. But there are other lifestyle factors that are just as important. Everything is connected, and what we do outside of work also has an impact on what we do at work.

Everybody knows about the benefits of exercise for our general health. But ongoing research is finding that exercise has direct benefits to our cognitive abilities and performance.

1. Exercise and improved concentration.

More than a dozen recent studies have shown that just one workout of moderate to high intensity lasting up to an hour improves attention, concentration, learning and memory for up to two hours. Moreover, aerobic exercise improves memory and the ability to learn when the exercise is done just before the learning takes place.

One researcher described the effects of exercise very simply, “Exercise makes you smarter.”

2. Exercise and fluid intelligence

Research at Colorado State University has shown that moderate-to- vigorous physical activity can improve fluid intelligence. This is the processing speed of the brain, as well as memory and reasoning abilities.

3. Exercise and depression

Another recent study lasting seven years and monitoring more than 150,000 people showed that those who had greater muscular and cardiovascular fitness were also a lot less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. This corroborates earlier studies showing that physical activity can ward off depression.

4. Exercise and mortality

More recent research is showing that 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day appears to be the most effective at improving health. Most people assume that when it comes to exercise, doing more is better. But research is showing that this is not really true. Too much is just as bad as too little.

Earlier recommendations for physical activity called for about 60 minutes a day. But the more recent analysis of nine different studies showed that just 35 minutes a day of activity, such as brisk walking, led to the greatest improvement in life span, regardless of how sedentary a person is.

In fact, the studies showed that even people who exercised moderately as little as 11 minutes a day had reduced mortality rates compared to those who moved less than that amount.

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